SLAC says gov’t should go slow on genetically modified products

While the country takes baby steps towards the development of genetically modified food (GMO) products, there’s one company that isn’t happy about it and another group even fears it could only be a temporary solution to the country’s problems in terms of food security.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, chief executive officer of the country’s biggest hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC), said that unless Europe and other countries in Asia like China began accepting GMO, the Philippines should not push for it.

“GMO is recognized by America but Europe, not yet. China, not yet. India, not yet. But since we follow the American standard, we allow it. For now, we use GM corn for feeding pigs and chicken so we, humans, are also indirectly consuming it,” Lim said in the latest LIDO Forum held in Quezon City.

“I don’t think we should be open for it unless other countries open it like Europe. If we need something to feed our animals, we have plenty of vegetables like kangkong and malunggay. Instead of Golden Rice, we already existing brown rice,” he further said.

The Philippines is the first ASEAN country to initiate a biotechnology regulatory system, which follows strict scientific standards and has become a model for member-countries of the region seeking to become producers of agricultural biotechnology crops.

The Golden Rice, on the other hand, is a new type of rice developed to contain beta carotene in its grain, a substance safely converted to vitamin A when needed by the body.

Vivencio Mamaril, director of Department of Agriculture’s (DA) biotechnology program, said during the same forum that Golden Rice is now ready for field testing but is yet to issue a permit to do so.

“I think the field testing will happen next year around three areas such as Bicol, Nueve Ecija, and Isabela,” Mamaril said.

Based on the latest report of US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Philippines continues to be a regional biotechnology leader and that BT eggplant remains poised as the first locally-developed, genetically-engineered (GE) crop to be commercialized.

“Although there have been delays in the processing of biosafety applications under the regulatory process known as Joint Departmental Circular (JDC) there have been no reported trade disruptions. Improvements in the implementation of the JDC regulations are expected starting late 2017 with the issuance of harmonized inter-agency procedures,” USDA said.

According to Renmin Vizconde, Officer-in-Charge of Philippine Network of Food Security Programs, the government’s push towards GMO is just a “band aid solution” to hunger.

She said that unless the government will be able to provide land for farmers and boost their income, the country’s problem about food security will continue.

“Suntok sa buwan ang food self-suffiency [the country’s plan to reach food self-sufficiency is impossible]. To achieve this, we must have land reforms and national industrialization. The government must also provide subsidy and lend idle lands to farmers,” Danilo Ramos, National Chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, also said.

Ramos likewise said that the even hybrid rice planting is a very expensive venture to take for farmers.

As a response, Lim said it’s always the farmers’ choice whether they go traditional or hybrid.

-Written by Madelaine B. Miraflor in Manila Bulletin.  See original article link here.